Thursday, 20 October 1977
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Kenny: and Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Agriculture if he is aware of the serious situation now facing potato producers; and the action he proposes to take to safeguard the substantial investments involved and the long-term future of potato production in this country.
Mr. Hussey: I am, of course, aware that there is a surplus of potatoes coming on the market this year—as, indeed, there is all over Western Europe following the last two years of tight supplies and high prices—and I have been discussing this with all the interests concerned.
In the short-term, there are some prospects of the re-opening, by Ceimicí Teoranta, of their starch factory at Labbadish, County Donegal which would reduce the surplus reaching the market, as will the introduction next month of grading standards which would eliminate small and poor quality potatoes.
Mr. Bruton: Would the Parliamentary Secretary agree that Ceimicí Teoranta are a State body and that in view of the critical situation that has existed for some time he should be a bit more definite as to whether Ceimicí will be reopening their plant?
Mr. Hussey: It is fairly certain they will be reopening the plant and that they will be able to take at least 12,000  tons of potatoes. This has been discussed between the IFA, the Irish Potato Marketing Board and Ceimicí Teoranta. They have to get the agreement of the Department of Finance for authority to increase their borrowing power.
Mr. Killilea: Will the Parliamentary Secretary make it known to the Minister that we have in Tuam a potato plant, part of the Irish Sugar Company concern, and that the full capacity of that plant is not being used? Will he ask the sugar company to take in a greater quantity of potatoes and thus play a major part in easing the situation?
Mr. Bruton: I welcome the news about Ceimicí, but will the Parliamentary Secretary state the price that will be paid for potatoes supplied to them? When will the commitment in paragraph 3 of the agricultural section of the Fianna Fáil election manifesto in relation to the setting up of a potato marketing board be implemented? Will he agree this is an appropriate time to implement it because of the urgency of the situation? Will he agree that the grading scheme is a serious problem and in view of the Minister's reply to me last week that there will be no additional staff costs in implementing the scheme, will the Parliamentary Secretary say how it will be implemented without extra staff?
Mr. Hussey: I cannot state the price that may be paid by Ceimicí. That will be a matter for negotiation between the producers and the factory. On the implementation of the policy document, that will be done as soon as possible.
Mr. Bruton: Will the Parliamentary Secretary agree that if ever there is a  time to introduce a potato marketing board it is now? We never made promises in an election which we could not keep. Is not this one of the first signs of a chink in Fianna Fáil's manifesto?
Mr. Hussey: The answer to the Deputy's question is no. Apart from the fact that there are more pressing demands on the limited financial resources available it has to be remembered that potato producers received exceptionally high prices in the past two years.
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